North Korea said on Monday that it had successfully tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile and is ready for deployment. This is the latest move in Pyongyan's quest to strengthen its nuclear and ballistic missile programme, in defiance of UN sanctions.
On Sunday, the North fired the missile into waters off its east coast. This was its second missile test in a week, which South Korea said dashed the hopes of the South's new liberal government under President Moon Jae-in for peace between the neighbors.
The KCNA state news agency said the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test of the Pukguksong-2. It confirmed the reliable late-stage guidance of the warhead and the functioning of a solid-fuel engine. The agency's statement has sparked fresh international condemnation, particularly from the US, Japan and South Korea, as the North faces fresh threats of tougher sanctions against it.
So far, North Korea's missiles have been liquid-fuelled that have to be filled with propellant before launch, while solid fuel missiles can be fired far more rapidly.
According to AFP, the new missile would dramatically shorten the time available for any attempt to intervene and prevent a launch, requiring any such decision to be taken much more quickly.
Earlier, South Korea's military officials have said that the Pukguksong-2, which is a land-based version of Pyongyang's submarine-launched weapon, uses solid fuel.
KCNA reported that North Korean leader said Pukguksong-2 was a "very accurate" missile and a "successful strategic weapon". He added that he "approved the deployment of this weapon system for action."
The agency also released pictures of the Earth claimed to be taken from the rocket in space. KCNA quoted Kim as saying that "he was very happy to see pictures of the Earth taken by our rocket and that the world looks beautiful".